Thursday, November 29, 2007

E. Nesbit

I am currently enjoying two books by British children's author E. Nesbit. The books are not well-known, if they ever were, but they should be.

The main character of The Story of the Treasure Seekers is one of the all-time favorites of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Based on her recommendation, I sought out this book via inter-library loan, as my local library didn't have a copy. And I enjoyed it immensely. It, and the sequel with the not-very-intriguing title of The Wouldbegoods, are laugh-out-loud funny. I recommend them to children and anyone who has ever been a child.

What is so great about them is the characterization. The characters literally leap off the page. You get to know them well and you grow to love them and care what happens to them.

Another obscure book by the same author is The House of Arden. Sounds like an old fashioned romance novel, doesn't it? The kind 
with a big mansion located on a windswept moor where the heroine 
becomes stranded and meets a dark, handsome and mysterious gentleman. 
But that's not what happens in this book. It's about two children who find 
they have inhearited a run-down castle and must find a treasure to be 
able to afford to restore 
the castle to its former glory. 
These children actually go back in time, have exciting adventures, and 
meet some famous people (great 
book to read if you want to study British history). 

I think Mrs. Nesbit's books are excellent, even if some of their titles sound strange to our modern ears. My children have noticed the following signs that these books were written over 100 years ago: different money (it's British money, but old fashioned British money, not the same as they have today), gas lights, house help, various types of horse-drawn carriages, differences in education and food (cold mutton was not a particular favorite, but roasted rabbit was a treat worthy of spending their own money to purchase). And we've had difficulty understanding various pop culture references (a good lesson in gaining meaning from context). One of the things the books prove is that, though many things have changed since they were written, people stay pretty much the same.

You may have heard of some of Mrs. Nesbit's more well-known books, such as Five Children and It. I urge you to look for some of these not-so-well-known works. You will not be disappointed.

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